“Battle Axe”

Saturday Spotlight

(12) Wisconsin Badgers at (8) Minnesota Golden Gophers

Wisconsin: It really looked as if they were going to run away with the Big Ten West at one point. Jonathan Taylor was running all over the competition, no pun intended. They made a statement with the win over the Michigan Wolverines. All seemed to be well with the world. Then came a game in Champaign, Illinois. At that time, the Wisconsin Badgers were ranked sixth in the country. They fell short to Lovie Smith’s Fighting Illini. A week later, they were embarrassed at the hands of the Ohio State Buckeyes. I watched some of the highlights against the Purdue Boilermakers from last Saturday. They were atrocious. They were lucky to win the football although they turned the ball over a total of four times! It seems as if they have become careless with the football. Earlier in the year, they turned the ball over a total of six times altogether. It’s not rocket science, but when you take care of the football, good things will happen for you. In the second half of the year, they’ve doubled that amount and turned the ball over a total of 12 times. As much as the Badgers are dependent on Jonathan, they can display some balance offensively. Quarterback Jack Coan has been more efficient with the football in his hands. Jack is top 15 in passing efficiency and third in completion percentage. It’s a play in game for the Big Ten championship game next weekend. Paul Chryst and his team will face a pleasant surprise in college football this year.

Minnesota: I’m so proud of all that P.J. Fleck has accomplished this year with this program. He had some high expectations for them. This year, I don’t think anybody saw them doing all they’ve done. The Big Ten West is the more unpredictable division of the two in the conference. Last season, the Northwestern Wildcats won the division for the first time in school history. The Minnesota Golden Gophers are a battle tested group. They play with a chip on their shoulder because so many say they aren’t legit. I got the chance to sit down to watch them a few weeks ago. They were playing the red-hot Penn State Nittany Lions. Penn State of course was a heavy favorite to win the game. Things didn’t go as planned. The first thing I noticed about the Gophers was the activity amongst the entire defense. They forced three Sean Clifford turnovers. Offensively, they can move the football down the field. Rashod Bateman is one of the best wide receivers in the Big Ten. He carves secondary’s up with his precise route running, his ability to get open to make the catch along with his movement in the open field. He’s Tanner Morgan’s top target for a reason. If you like football played with some grit, I highly recommend you watch this team play. I can tell you they’ve made me notice them more. I really didn’t expect them to be as good as they are. I don’t think many did except for them which is most important. That belief within one another in the locker room. They’re closing in on their first division title in school history.

Wisconsin Player to Watch: Chris Orr– He’s the leader of this Wisconsin defense. What Jack Coan is to the offense as their quarterback, that’s what Chris is to the defense as the middle linebacker. He reads, reacts, then attacks. Chris sits on the line of scrimmage then goes after the football each play. He’s an excellent tackler in the open field. Expect defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard to send him on last minute blitz’s up the middle.

Minnesota Player to Watch: Tyler Johnson– This is the other half of the wide receiver tandem that makes this Minnesota offense pop. Tyler is a playmaker. I like the speed he displays with the ball in his hands. You thought Bateman was one to watch, this kid is just as dynamic. Tanner Morgan has two dynamic receivers to share the football with.

Final Analysis: This is a rivalry that you don’t hear much about. When these two meet up, it’s for “Paul Bunyan’s Axe”. That’s on the line along with a trip to Indianapolis to face Ohio State in the Big Ten title game next weekend. The weather is expected to be a mix of rain and snow. With that being said, Wisconsin will do everything in its power to pound the football in the running game. They’ll do everything in their power to run the football. If Minnesota has watched any of Wisconsin’s defensive struggles, it’s been in the secondary. Keep Throwing!! The Badgers have a great front seven, but the secondary is another conversation. The winner of this game will more than likely end up in the Rose Bowl. If Minnesota wins this, then wins the Big Ten title game, they’ll be a playoff team.

Prediction: Minnesota 21 Wisconsin 17

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